Friday, June 30, 2006

Poetry Friday: another old one

It's been fun going through these old poems. Maybe someday I'll write a new one. :)

When an Angel Passes

Like candles dripping onto wine bottles,
Yesterday it rained.
Without looking through back alleys,
Or up museums in coffee bean air,
You asked me if I felt naked
Knowing my thighs
Brushed against each other,
The hair clinging to my face,
The air humid.

Fifteen arrondisements to the Eiffel Tower
For beer. We leaned over the bridge.
I watched streetlights bouncing the Seine.
In the park where flowers grow,
Like swans I sat perfectly white
On the perfectly green
We couldn't walk on, but did.

Today, we'd return.
I'd French you over coffee,
A space between each line,
Like the wind of an angel's wings.
Crepes, crossants for dinner,
Wax onto bottles
After the wine ran out.

I'd leave the way I came:
Through the Porte du Jour.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kicking off a campaign of hope

First, I must allay any fears that I am on the verge of some kind of breakdown. I'm not. My life is stressful and I'm working through a lot of that at the moment.

Senator Hillary ClintonSecond, I'm getting myself more and more involved in local politics. Yesterday, I went a rally for Ed Rendell, who's running for re-election as the Governor of PA. This was a "Women for Rendell" campaign and so much of the rhetoric was geared toward the issues women are mostly interested in--choice, health care, education. In attendance were all our women representatives at various levels of government. In this picture special guest Hillary Clinton are Lois Murphy, running for Congress in the 6th district and our state senator Connie Williams. Allyson Schwartz was also there as well as Kate Michelman from NARAL.

Joe Sestak speakingI attended an event for Joe Sestak a couple of weeks ago who's running for congress against Curt Weldon. Both of these events were quite inspiring. The democrats have a pretty good message. They want to take this country from a state of fear to a state of hope. They believe in helping people, providing health care, increasing the minimum wage, helping families balance their lives. I'm not just crossing my fingers. I'm helping them get where they need to be in whatever way I can. I really want to see our country in a better place. I feel like we've been driven into the ground by what the republicans have done. I think, no matter what, the democrats can do better. They may not be perfect, but they're on the right track.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Poetry Friday

Waffle House, Nashville, TN

The world is too much with us . . .
William Wordsworth

I was hardly in the world anyway
so at shift change, the waitresses
huddled in the corner didn't notice me,
because everything was weighed down
with grey. Looks like rain,
a gas station attendant in Jackson told me,
but all I could do was laugh, I felt
so heavy as we watched the numbers
on the meter click. Looks like it'll never
stop. This I knew, but still in the fluorescence
of the Waffle House, my hand would not
be steady, lack of sleep, too much speed.

Someday, I want to go out
with just the girls
, a waitress said,
course I'll be 30 . . . 40 . . . maybe 50
before I have the time or the money.

I wanted to write a friend and tell him
I'd never get married, not the way
things were going, not the way
I'd left my lover this morning
with the failed omelet
because although I'd tried, the tines
of the plastic fork curled away
and it would not fold, not the way
he'd said good-bye over and over
so it was still ringing in my ears
a hundred miles down the road,
not like this. I took a bite
of my sandwich, and I understood
how people became anorexic.
It just plain hurts to eat.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Bind of the Working Parent

Linda Hirshman's at it again, describing the vitriol she received when she published her article in American Prospect that argued that women should work and not stay home. She suggested that the real glass ceiling was at home. In her new article, she explains that much of the vitriol came from the religiously-oriented stay-at-home movement that sought to also strip women of rights more generally. But she also says she got blasted from plain old stay at home moms and some working moms. Seems like she got blasted from all sides.

Although, she's toned down her rhetoric a little, she still claims that it's best for women to go to work. The problem is, she's still putting all the focus on the individuals and not on greater societal trends that are not helping women go back to work easily. Work sometimes sucks. Sometimes it's not fun and fulfilling. Most of us, I hate to say, are not making great world contributions though we might be making smaller, more local ones. Work is often not flexible. One cannot adjust hours or take a lot of time off for school events, illness, and all the other little things that have to be tended to when one is raising children and managing a household. Even if partners split this evenly, one bad round of flu and both of you can run through all your sick time. And some places don't offer personal time. And what do people not on an academic calendar do in the summers? Where is Hirshman's call for businesses to be more flexible or for schools to get with the 21st century?

If one is careerist at all, balancing caring for a family and your work is downright impossible. Many careerist women often couple with careerist partners, and if they recognize that balancing is hard, they might not have children at all or one partner will step off the career track, either by slowing down or opting out completely. And let's face some hard facts. Society still supports careerist men, but women are still made to feel guilty (even more so if they have a family) if they're careerist. That stay-at-home movement, especially with the current administration in office, has some powerful pull and knows how to pull at the heart strings too. Women are, more often than men, made to feel as if it's their duty to care for the children. I hope this is changing, but if Hirshman is right, then maybe it's not.

Do I think there's a glass ceiling at home? That's hard to say. Mr. Geeky really is an involved father. He does more than just the fun stuff. He has always changed diapers, gotten up in the middle of the night, tended to sick children, and handed down punishments. We are, I would say, equal parents. Do I wish he would do more household management? You bet. He is absolutely more likely to overlook a pile of laundry or a stack of papers to be sorted than I am. I definitely have times when I wish he'd just say, "This place is a mess. What can I do to help?" But he does stuff. He cleans the kitchen, takes out the garbage, and does minor household repairs. He's been known to vacuum and mop (to be fair, neither of us do that very often). Maybe if he did 10% more, I'd have, what, another 15 minutes a day. Woah.

And one thing Hirshman overlooks is the fact that there are ways to contribute without bringing home a paycheck. I often think about what I'd do if I weren't working. I'd volunteer more, probably for political campaigns. I'd write, maybe even for a tiny paycheck. I wouldn't just tend to the tedium of the house. And there's a lot to be said for raising children well. It takes a lot of work, a lot of emotional and physical energy that's hard to come by when you're holding down a 9-5 job. I'd love to see more women in the work force, but I don't want it to be at the expense of the well-being of their children or themselves. I obviously believe that working mothers do not do serious damage to their children, but something has to give and it's sometimes the women or their relationships. And if Hirshman's serious that this is the feminist agenda (at least hers), then she needs to get behind some legislation that helps us all balance our work life and our family life. What do you say Linda, put your money where your mouth is?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Taking a blog break

For the last hour, I've been trying to sleep. It's not been a red letter day at the Geeky household. Geeky Boy had a disappointing birthday. I let him down and that breaks my heart. But worse, I realized that I had not been thinking about him or what he wanted or needed, only thinking about myself, about convenience. The truth is, I've been functioning this way for a long time, and a few bumps in the road have further caused me to turn inward in an attempt, I think, to protect myself. The result, instead, is that I've hurt someone I love very much and it's probably not the first time I've done so in the last few months.

I need to reprioritize a little, to think about what's important and to reinvolve myself in my family's lives again. Right now, I just don't think there's room for blogging, a dissertation, a job, and a family. I won't be gone forever. I just need to think about why I began blogging in the first place and what I really want to be writing here and how it fits into my life. I think in many ways, blogging has been a substitute for the lack of support and recognition I feel in other aspects of my life. That's not to say that I think blogging is to blame for the imbalance I feel right now. It's not. It's just that what I do here has become something different from what I want it to be.

My next door neighbor moved today. She is 90 and I saw her just a couple of times in the three years I've lived here. She stopped by yesterday to say goodbye and a small crowd of people gathered in my driveway to wish her well. I don't know most of these people. Sure, sometimes I wave to them and some of them are not necessarily people I want to develop close friendships with, but I definitely feel like I should know them.

The connections I made here are real. I enjoyed reading about other people's lives and sharing in births and deaths, tenure and job searches, struggles with children and parents. It felt like a community here, a virtual neighborhood where we did more than just wave at each other across the street.

Happy Birthday Geeky Boy

Today you are 11, officially a tween, in a state of transition. You are no longer a kid, but still a kid in so many ways. For now, you still enjoy the pleasures of childhood: playing outside, watching animated tv and films, playing with children of all ages, popsicles and bouncy balls. Over the next few years, these may begin to fall away as you edge toward the adult you are becoming. If you follow the path you've been on, I'm sure that you will be kind and considerate, thoughtful and creative in whatever you do.

I can hardly believe it has been 11 years since we brought you into the world. You have been through a lot in 11 years. You have lived in five different residences, attended three different schools, and, unfortunately, attended several funerals, most recently, your gram's. I am sure, if she were here, she would be very proud of you, as proud of you as I am. She loved you very much and I have never seen anyone so happy to have grandchildren as she was.

This next year will bring many changes as you move on to middle school. I know you have a quiet strength that will help you through the changes, but I want to remind you that I am always here to listen. I hope, if you find something exciting or troubling, that you'll come and talk to us. And we promise to listen.

Happy Birthday, Geeky Boy. May the next 11 years bring you as much joy as the first 11.

Last year's letter.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Conflicting kid stuff

Update: Game cancelled! Tragedy averted. Film at 11!

I hate when this happens when I'm by myself. I scheduled a play date for Geeky Girl without looking at the calendar. Geeky Boy has a lacrosse game at the same time. I can either a) let Geeky Boy ride to lacrosse with his friend or b) reschedule the play date. I'm leaning towards a) but I feel guilty about it because I'll miss the game. I actually haven't been to any of the games this year. Mostly that's been because Mr. Geeky has gone while I've stayed home to work and that's probably what would happen today if Mr. Geeky were here. Last year, I went to most of the lacrosse games, but this year, I've been writing, and the games have been further away. Ugh. I hate this. I really do.

Why is it that we parents think missing a game or something will scar our children for life? Because that's what I'm thinking right now. I'm thinking 5 years from now, Geeky Boy and I are going to be in a fight and he's going to say, "Remember the year you didn't go to a single lacrosse game? That proves you don't love me." Yes, I lean toward the melodramatic.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

No whoring today

I need more creepy Google searches because the "mom son sex" ones aren't creepy enough for me. My only hope is that the people that land here via some search like that actually learn something. I know, probably not.

Today's agenda is revision and some administrivia. I've received, as I alluded to earlier, feedback from my advisor about chapter 1. I just went through the chapter myself right before reading the feedback and boy howdy, does it need some work. But, I got some wonderful suggestions from my advisor and coupled with a some of my own thoughts about what to do with this thing, I think I'm headed toward a decent revision. I have some IRB stuff to send off, some hours to register for and some more paperwork to send away. The paperwork freaks me out. I have this fear that some random piece of paper will be missing and I won't be able to get my degree after all this work.

Last night, we had a mondo storm and the power was knocked out, leaving me with two kids in my bed. My back is in some pretty serious pain after sitting in a bad chair last weekend, so I didn't really sleep well. That means I'm not in the greatest of shape to be working on this revision, but I'm going to give it the old college try. I also have to get to the grocery store (with the kids in tow).

What I'd rather be doing today? Lying on the couch watching bad tv. Sigh. But I think I will reward myself with such extravagance if I get my work done. I have to trick myself like this all the time.

Book-loving whore

That's me apparently. Via Terminal Degree.

Which of Henry VIII's wives are you?
this quiz was made by Lori Fury

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Happy (but exhausted) Crew

originally uploaded by J. Fei.
I'm at the end of an exhausting week of training my new group of Multimedia Interns. Here's a great picture of them, somewhere on campus. They're a wonderful group of students. I'm impressed already with their skills and talents, their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.

One of my former students stopped by today, too. And another sent me flowers earlier in the week. I'm not looking for such gestures, but they definitely remind me how much I love working with these students. It's been fun watching them learn and grow, not just over the summer, but over the years.

Academic Hierarchy

Yesterday, Steven Krause wrote about the Inside Higher Ed article on top tier schools losing their edge and his own experience at non top tier schools (both for graduate school and in his current position). When I receive my PhD, it will be from a third tier state school. Many of my colleagues who received their degrees there have gone on to teach at branch state schools or private high schools or community colleges. In my mind, they're all successful and the ones I'm in touch with seem to be satisfied with their work.

My third tier school has been a wonderful experience for me. The department is small enough that you get to know most of the faculty even if you don't take classes with them. When I got my master's degree, nearly the entire class studied together over beer and/or coffee at the local coffee shop. We all showed up for each other's exams, standing outside the door to await the results and to console or congratulate as necessary (we all were congratulated!). After we'd all passed our exams, we had a party for the 10 or so of us who'd been through the ordeal and I still remember it as one of the most fun events I've ever been to.

Most of those students either took their masters and went on to a job or on to another (better) Ph.D. program. I stayed and was welcomed by the few other Ph.D. students in the department. There was no real competition. We all helped and supported each other as much as we could.

The faculty are also extremely supportive. Most of them have degrees from excellent schools--Harvard, Berkeley, Indiana U, etc. They are accessible and provide mentoring and support at a level one would not receive at the schools they themselves attended. For example, I just received the kind of feedback everyone wants to receive on their dissertation from my advisor--thoughtful, kind but critical where it needs to be, constructive and instructive. If I'd been writing it, I think I would have been more harsh. :)

Even though my degree may not gain me that much in terms of my career, I am not just glad I got it for the three extra letters. I'm glad I got it for all the people I've met and been able to spend time with. It has been not just a memorable experience, but one that has shaped the way I think about the academy. It reminds me of the positive side of the academy.

At my current institution, my impression is that it's all about the hierarchy. It matters where you got your degree. It matters what your position is (full professor, continuing non-tenure track, etc.). Not everyone cares about those things, of course, but many do. One can feel pretty beaten down by being made to feel like Pip all the time. ("Oh, you don't have a degree?" Or just the glance around the room for someone else to talk to.) I try to keep that stuff at bay and remind myself that good work is important to me and to many others, and that many people do see their work as more than just climbing the academic hierarchy. They see ways that everyone contributes to the overall mission of the institution, regardless of where their degree is from or where they are on the organizational chart. It's those people whose company I most try to keep.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Office marathon

Woot! I love The Office. I think I'm in love with Jim.

A snoozing meme

1. Do you use an alarm clock to wake up? Yes.
2. What time does your alarm go off? 6:30
3. What sound does it make? I wake up to NPR.
4. Do you hit the snooze button? How many times? At least once and sometimes twice.
5. If you have a partner, do they have a separate alarm? Yes, but he never uses it. I wake him up. If he has an early meeting, he'll use his alarm.
6. Does your partner get up at the same time, earlier or later? Later.
7. Is your clock set ahead? If so, by how much? I have my clock set ahead by 15 minutes. When the alarms goes off at 6:30, it's really 6:15.
8. What's the first thing you do when you get up? Drink coffee and read blogs.
9. Do you eat breakfast? If so, what? Sometimes. Cereal, an english muffin, or a pop tart.
10. How long does it take you to get ready? I can get ready in 30-45 minutes.
11. On the weekends, what time do you get up? 7:30 or 8
12. Do you lounge or do you jump into action? Lounge for about an hour, then start working on the dissertation.
13. In an ideal world, what time would you get up? No earlier than 8.
14. How many hours of sleep do you typically get? 7
15. How many hours of sleep do you want to get? 8 or more.